> 2008 race reports
23/02/08 Inov-8 High Cup Nick - from Rob Stephens (photos: Pat & Rob)

High Cup Gill - photo: Rob
the impressive jaws of the Gill shrouded in cloud so you'll have to make do with this rock

The weather prospects looked grim as we drove westward to Dufton on the A66: low cloud, gusty winds and a spattering of rain. The low cloud was a concern, not for navigational reasons but because the fabulous run up between the spectacular escarpment jaws of High Cup Gill would likely lose its splendour under cloud cover. I noted too that the forecasted sou'westerlies aligned perfectly with the orientation of the Gill, so, like last year, it was going to be windy up the Nick - and loose running shorts would offer little protection!

It did brighten up a little later though, and the pretty village of Dufton was awash with a cheerful race atmosphere. Race organiser (and ex-NFR) Morgan Donnelly seemed to have plenty of support from the village, together with a good showing from his fast Borrowdale FR clubmates. Around 143 runners (90 last year) signed up for the main race in the bustling village hall, whilst several junior races up the lane added joy to the occasion. I didn't see the junior races but I see that Easter had come early for the Mighty Fin [Robertson], who won himself not one but two chocolate eggs!

The Mighty Fin - photo: Rob
Fin's Win

the brief - photo: Rob
race organiser Morgan Donnelly gives the brief

Runners had come from as far as Scotland and Wales to try this nearly new race. Amongst them, 14 NFRs, half of whom ran the course last year and must clearly enjoy it. I personally had unfinished business: to run the proper course and not, like last year, take the mountain goat's tour high up at the foot of the escarpment (not to be recommended).

early leaders - photo: Pat
some of the faster runners get in position

From the off it's a fast pace on the road, which soon starts to climb, teasing the runners out into a thread. Before long, we're onto the good soft turf and clarts that we've probably all become familiar with over the winter. Good going around by Studgill Tarn brings us contouring around a spur to be suddenly greeted by the first glimpse of High Cup Gill. As suspected, the escarpments are masked by low-lying cloud so a bit of a disapointment, but the immediate fast thrilling grassy descent to the stream-crossing partly makes up for it.

Studgill Tarn - photo: Rob
Studgill Tarn

A quick dip in the beck then a stretch of barely defined path, picking a way over tussock, rock and wet bits but also some good turf later on.

valley floor - photo: Rob
picking over tussocks and rocks

Soon enough the climb to the top of the Gill - High Cup Nick - begins. It starts with a small boulder field: slippy and potentially very nasty for ankle and shin (there's a lot more of this sort of delight on last year's 'high road' choice). As expected, runners' progress is halted dramatically and we bunch up for a while. Further ahead, the actual climb to the top is straightforward hands-on-knees but this culminates in hands-on-rocks as the wind has funnelled into a fury by now on the last scramble to the top. The strength of the wind is perfectly illustrated by a small waterfall which u-turns and blows back uphill.

the climb - photo: Rob
the climb

uphill waterfall - photo: Rob
the waterfall that goes uphill

The highest point and a quick scrabble for a hat, maybe even a jacket: the wind along the top is ferocious, bringing the temperature right down, and we're in dense cloud too. But it's all downhill now - 4 miles of it, mostly on knobbly Pennine Way. It's just as well you can't see the view because the firm rocky path demands maximum concentration at times as the leg speed builds up. Great fun though and eventually we drop out of the cloud to take in the view of Dufton Pike and the surrounding landscape. The route across short grass fields back to the village lends itself to some good full-throttle running if you've got the energy left. Marshals at every turn usher us back to the finish on the village green.

return path - photo: Rob
nearly back to Dufton

Retaining his crown from last year, Jim Davies of Borrowdale won the men's race and Lisa Lacon of Holmfirth won the ladies'. Steve Birkinshaw was first NFR in 6th position, closely followed by a tremendous run from newcomer Philip Sanderson (8th position) [his only other fell race was DFR's Black Hill and Beck the other week!]. Karen Robertson was 2nd lady and Geoff Davis had a storming run to come in 34th position. Other tough NFRs braving the conditions in order of finishing (I think): Rob Stephens, Chris Little, Jamie Wilkinson, Katherine Davis, Matt Simms, Bernard Kivlehan, Peter Scott, Susan Davis, Stewart Beaty and Jane Saul. (Sorry if I missed anyone.)

Thanks to the organisers, the village of Dufton and everyone who helped to make this a great race - let's hope for less cloud next year!

results: Word | pdf

Rob Stephens

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